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Here’s What That Vote on Single-Payer Health Care Really Meant

2 minute read

The Senate voted down a stunt proposal to create single-payer health care on Thursday in a move that revealed where the Democratic Party may be headed.

As part of the legislative process to repeal the Affordable Care Act, senators from both parties were free to force their colleagues to vote on various health care measures.

Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, a critic of single-payer health care, used the opportunity to put Democrats on the spot over the idea.

Most Democratic senators decided to sit out the vote, and it failed 0-57. But four Democrats—all from states that went to Donald Trump—joined the 52 Republican senators to vote no on the amendment: Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. (Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, which gave one elector to Trump, also voted against the measure.)

The vote came as support for a single-payer health care system is increasing among Democrats. According to a Pew Research Center poll in June, 52 percent of Democrats now think health insurance should be provided by a single government-run system. A majority of House Democrats now back a “Medicare for All” bill that would create something like single-payer.


Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris are among the few who have expressed support for single-payer. On Thursday, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said he was “interested” in single-payer and said that he looked forward to seeing how it works out in individual states–like California, which has been considering it.

“The laboratories of democracy could really have some opportunities,” he said.

Another person who has praised single-payer health care? President Trump, who told Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that “you have better healthcare than we do” during a May visit.

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Write to Jack Brewster at jack.brewster@time.com